Advertising

Learning To Accept Yourself As An Introvert

Learning To Accept Yourself As An Introvert
Advertising

If you identify as a natural introvert like myself, you’ll understand the problems and obstacles we sometimes have to face. Whether it is pressure we put on ourselves or stigmas created due to remarks made by others, it can often feel as though we are expected to be different. As though being quieter than our extroverted counterparts is a bad thing. At times it can feel like, due to repetitive demands from others to be a little more outgoing, you are expected to start climbing on tables swinging a microphone around your head shouting all of your daily activities. Or that one might just be me.

Here, Louise Watson of Tiny Buddha explores her journey to accepting herself as the natural introvert that she is:

“What other people think of me is none of my business.” ~Wayne Dyer

“You’re too quiet.”

This comment and others like it have plagued me almost all my life. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that I needed to come out of my shell, to be livelier, or to talk more. As a child and teenager, I allowed these remarks to hurt me deeply. I was already shy, but I became even more self-conscious as I was constantly aware of people waiting for me to speak. When I did, the response was often, “Wow! Louise said something!” This would make me just want to crawl back into my shell and hide. I became more and more reserved.

Advertising

The older I got, the angrier I became. Each time someone told me I was “too quiet,” I wondered what exactly they were hoping to achieve anyway. Did they imagine I had a magic button I could press that would turn me into Miss Showbiz? If only it were that simple, I thought. I felt I should be accepted as I was, but apparently that wasn’t going to happen. There was only one thing for it; I would have to become the extrovert the world wanted me to be, but how?

At 17, I thought I’d found the perfect solution: alcohol. When I was drunk, everyone seemed to like me. I was fun and outgoing; able to talk to anyone with no problems at all. However, it began to depress me that I needed a drink to do this or for anyone to like me.

Another strategy was to attach myself to a more outgoing friend. I did this at school, university, and later when I began to travel a lot in my twenties. Although I didn’t do it consciously, wherever I went I would make friends with someone much louder than me. Then I’d become their little sidekick, going everywhere with them, trying to fit in with all their friends, and even adopting aspects of their personality. Sometimes I just tried faking it.

When I was 24, I began teaching English as a Foreign Language, and a month into my first contract in Japan, I was told my students found me difficult to talk to. I was upset because I thought I had made an effort to be friendly and I didn’t understand what else I could do. After crying all night because once again I wasn’t good enough, I went into work the next day determined to be really lively and talkative. Of course, it didn’t work because everyone could see I was being false. It seemed that I was doomed. I would never be accepted. Being a naturally loud person was the only way to be liked.

Advertising

Or maybe not.

Over the years, I’ve spoken to several talkative, extroverted people who’ve been told they’re too loud or that they talk too much. It seems whatever personality you’ve got you’re always going to be “too much” of something for someone.

What really matters is: do you think you need to change?

My shyness has made some areas of my life more difficult. It’s something I’ve been working on all my life and I always will be in order to do all the things I want to do. However, I’ve realized I’m always going to be an introvert, which is not the same thing. I enjoy going out and socializing, but I also enjoy being alone. At work I talk to people all day, every day. I like my job, but as an introvert, I get tired after all that interaction, so later I need some quiet time to “recharge my batteries.” I can overcome my shyness. I can’t overcome my introversion, but actually, I wouldn’t want to because I’m happy being this way.

Be kind to yourself if you decide to change.

While I’m still shy, I no longer worry about it.  When speaking to new people, if something comes out wrong or I get my words mixed up, I just laugh to myself about my nervousness rather telling myself how weird the other person must’ve thought I was.

Advertising

In the past I was terrified of any form of public speaking. Now my job is getting up in front of people and talking. After a rocky start in Japan, my students now see me as funny (sometimes!) and confident. So I think I’m doing alright. No, I don’t understand why I can’t just be like that with everyone, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m doing my best and that’s all I can do.

Don’t be afraid to lose false friends.

When you’re always being told you’re too much of this or not enough of that, it’s easy to start thinking you have to be grateful that anyone is willing to spend time with you. I used to put up with friends who treated me badly because I thought if I stood up for myself, I’d lose their friendship and I’d end up all alone.

Eventually, in my last year teaching abroad, I did stand up for myself and my worst fear came true. I was left completely friendless. And you know what? It was okay. The time alone taught me to enjoy my own company, and gave me the chance to learn more about myself. This has gradually led to me attracting more positive people into my life.

Could your supposed weakness actually be your strength?

I’m a good listener, so friends feel able to talk to me if they have a problem and they know I’m not going to tell anyone. I’m an efficient worker because I just get on with the job. I can empathize with shy students in my class. I don’t force them to speak but leave them alone, knowing that they’ll talk when they feel more comfortable.

Advertising

There’s a reason why you were made the way you are. If we were all supposed to be the same, we would be. I’ve stopped trying to make everyone like me and I’ve stopped trying to be something I’m not. As a result, any changes in my character happen naturally as my confidence continues to grow. The “quiet” comments are also now few and far between. When you learn to accept yourself, you’re likely to find that others will accept you too.

But if they don’t, it really doesn’t matter.

More by this author

Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips on Lifehack.

Best Life Hack Sites – 100 Most Useful Websites on The Internet Why You Should Follow Your Passion Instead of the Money 9 Simple Ways to Always Stay Positive This Chart Shows You Where And Why Emotional Pain Becomes Physical Discomfort 30 Brilliant Camping Hacks I Wish I Knew Earlier

Trending in Communication

1 I Want To Be Happy: 7 Science-Backed Ways to Find Happiness 2 13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently 3 10 Morning Habits Of Happy People 4 What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People 5 13 Simple Habits of Happiness To Change Your Outlook on Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
Advertising

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

Advertising

  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

Advertising

Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

Advertising

However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

Advertising

Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

Advertising

  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

Read Next